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Mrs. Maroon

December 13, 2014

Let There Be Light!

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Being in a new house, Christmas decorating was a little different this year. Fortunately, from an interior perspective, our new house has a very similar floor plan to the old house, which means we didn’t couldn’t find a need for new or additional decorations. For exterior lighting, however, the roof line is exceedingly different. No worries, though, as the linear feet of lighting required for this house is approximately equal to what we’d used before. Yippee… No spending! While we put up everything inside over Thanksgiving weekend, we also measured the house for outside lights in consideration for LED lights. We figured it was in our best interest to convert to LED lights to save electricity, despite having plenty of incandescent bulbs.

 A sneak peek inside

A sneak peek inside


Fast forward to this weekend… We hadn’t done anything to the outside of the house. We were both feeling a little Scrooge-y compared to the rest of the houses on our street. I know, I know – comparison will kill you, but Christmas only comes one time a year! Once again, Mr. Maroon started the debate of electricity for incandescent lights vs. replacement cost for LED this morning.


We’ve always considered LED bulbs ever since the first Christmas we decorated with outdoor incandescent lighting. Mr. Maroon, ever nerdy back then, had estimated a modest cost for our extravagant display of Christmas lights. Much to our surprise, the December electricity bill made our heart skip a beat (more like fall over on the floor). Eventually we deduced that high cost was a result of inefficiently using our electric heater to keep us comfortable during an unusually cold December in North Texas. We quickly lowered the thermostat and took to wearing warmer clothes and using more blankets to correct that financial mistake – but we always wondered about the low operating cost of LED lights.


So this morning, he starts throwing out units like volts, amps, watts, etc. He looks at me in hopes that I will help confirm his theory, knowing we both took the same electrical engineering class in pursuit of our degrees. I stared back at him blankly. Of all the ridiculous classes I took in school, EE was by far the worst for me. The Worst… Please, please tell me why it matters which direction the current is flowing in a circuit?! Does the light come on when I flip the switch – then currently the light works…I’m good!!


For the sake of being thorough, I will regurgitate what he rattled off this morning…

At 7 watts per bulb, with 154 bulbs (initial measurements) that makes 1,078 watts. Assuming we run the lights for a generous six hours a day (from 6:00p to 12:00a), that’s only 6,468 watt-hours or 6.5 kWh. At a modest $0.10 per kWh, we are talking $0.65 per day.


With that Mr. Maroon confidently set out the door to get busy with the existing lights. After that exercise, no need to even consider the price of replacement LED light strings. (***Note: Enough LED strings to meet our decoration need would have cost approximately $100. Our $0.65 per day of estimated operating expenses will buy us 153 days of operating with the existing lights if we forego the cost of new LED strings. If we operate for 30 days per year, that’s about five years for a return on our LED investment. It’s even longer since we aren’t including operating cost for LED strings.)


In unusual fashion he set to work right away. No pre-planning. Bear in mind that we had a color coded diagram for the last house. To be honest I’m still surprised it never morphed into a to-scale rendering from AutoCAD. But he just got started with all of the lights from the old house today. As I stood out in the yard, he started to look at the strand he had chosen as the finisher. He posed the question “Hmmm. I wonder if this strand will finish us out?” I thought he was close, but would be short by a couple bulbs. WRONG! As my sister-in-law often laments, Mr. Maroon is known for coming out of just about everything smelling like a rose. Today was no different… He hit the very end of the gutter with the very last bulb on the strand.


The final tally of bulbs was actually only 133 for the house. Adjusting all of the ‘calculations’ from this morning, the total comes out to a measly $0.56 each day, which also translates into a six year ROI. Bring on the Christmas spirit!!!

 We anxiously waited in the front yard for the stroke of 6:00. The lights did not disappoint!

We anxiously waited in the front yard for the stroke of 6:00. The lights did not disappoint!


Do you decorate the exterior of your living space? Have you ever considered the actual cost of decorating? Or do you just simply decorate because it’s Christmas, and that’s what you’re supposed to do? Or do you avoid outside lights because you assume your electric bill will skyrocket?


~ Mrs. Maroon

*** Mr. Maroon commandeered control of the keyboard and engi-nerded up my post to further demonstrate the frugality-minded approach to his holiday lighting scheme.

Christmas Spirit Continues
November 2014 Update
  1. Comment by Holly@ClubThrifty — December 15, 2014 @ 7:37 AM

    Great job on your outdoor lights! We have never done any exterior decorating before. My daughter really wants some outdoor lights, so we might do that next year.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Our 2014 Spending: How Did We Do?My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I was really surprised at how little we expected the lights to cost us. Oh, and Mini Maroon #1 just loved them – so worth it for the kiddos!

  2. Comment by Mrs. SSC — December 15, 2014 @ 8:05 AM

    I love this. It is the exact opposite of how Mr. SSC often handles the lights – trying to ‘lay’ them out ahead of time so they will all plug in correctly… he takes a very non-engineering approach, and I’ve learned to just let him do his thing and avoid the front yard until he is done, since my suggestions of efficiency are typically growled at.

    When we moved last year, we had a similar dilemma. This was before we got all super-frugal, so we did buy some new LED lights for our bushes. We love decorating, I am big on holiday spirit and all that stuff. But, we still use our incandescent lights. We just plan on replacing with LED as those lights break over time. The up-front cost of LED lights is just too ridiculous.

    And I did worry about the cost of the electricity, but like you, realized that a few weeks of less than $1/day wasn’t going to break us…
    Mrs. SSC recently posted…How do you define retirement?My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    There are just certain things we do for the sake of our marriage… if it means not talking about how to put up the lights, so be it. Mr. Maroon and I came to the very edge of the cliff for an argument over how to string the beads on the Christmas tree one year. Really?! Yes, the beads on the Christmas tree. We finally realized we were being completely ridiculous and let it go. Now, Mr. Maroon does it without any commentary from me.

    LED lights may be great, but you can bet we will use our incandescent ones until they no longer work!

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